GCC’s SNAP E&T Program Offers Path Forward for Student After Loss
When Crishawn Green started at Gateway Community College (GCC) six years ago, she was raising three children as a single parent while successfully managing work as a licensed practical nurse (L.P.N.).
In November 2019, before there was even a known threat from COVID-19, Crishawn’ s mother died, and she assumed custody of her 13-year-old brother. The despair she felt losing her mother was compounded months later as she struggled with online classes for herself while overseeing virtual learning for everyone else with only two laptops at home. She frequently described the situation as “horrible” for what it represented to the dreams she had built for herself. Crishawn already had overcome hurdles and was loving school. She earned a G.E.D. at age 27 after dropping out in ninth grade, a year after giving birth to her daughter.
Feeling her productivity shift under the weight of her new responsibilities, Crishawn had to apply for SNAP benefits for her brother and learned that she could qualify for free training through GCC’s Workforce Development & Continuing Education department. The program offers case management and support services from staff on campus.
Seeing the need for a home-based work arrangement, she decided to earn a property and casualty insurance certificate, a credential that could open the door to a field that she determined could offer the potential for her to one day own a business. The classes offered Crishawn a fresh start. She recently completed the state test and has been offered several jobs. As a bonus, Crishawn was among GCC’s 2022 graduates in May, achieving her Associate degree in Liberal Arts & Sciences.
“The SNAP program really helped me finish my degree,” Crishawn said.
She noted that the SNAP E&T program helped her with the challenges of babysitting for her youngest child, then in third grade, and loaned her a laptop. Much of the insurance class was offered remotely, but eventually shifted to in-person instruction, which she said helped her latch on to concepts that were difficult to grasp. Still a licensed L.P.N. and describing herself as “a nurturer,” Crishawn has not ruled out pursuing a nursing degree in the future but is excited about the opportunities in front of her.
One of the keys to success, Crishawn said, was being consistent in pursuing her goals. She also found a mentor in Lavanda Bryant, assistant director of Financial Aid at GCC, who encouraged her to complete her Associate degree as well.
“For years straight, she gave me a lot of insight,” Crishawn said, adding that Bryant helped her map out a plan going forward after her mother died.
Bryant noticed how close Crishawn was to her goal of earning a degree and offered her unique blend of empowering, honest, and straightforward advice. Now that she has achieved her degree and a certificate, she is back to feeling excited about her career prospects.
“It is motivating to show my kids that you could do it. Everyone in my house talks about college,” Crishawn said.
Erika Lynch, director of Workforce Development & Continuing Education at GCC, said Crishawn was open to considering a different approach to achieving her goals and her willingness to consider other options led to her success.
"In the midst of difficulty, Crishawn made use of the resources available to her and found a way to persevere. We are so pleased that the SNAP E&T program provided the support at the right time for her to see her way through a tough set of circumstances and earn both a certificate and a degree,” Lynch said.